60th Overall - Will Cuylle, Left Wing, Windsor Spitfires (OHL)
I published a complete scouting report of Cuylle earlier. Read that for a complete breakdown of his game and my analysis of his selection. In short, I think Cuylle has NHL upside, but that he was a massive reach in the second round.
92nd Overall - Oliver Tarnstrom, Center, AIK (Allsvenskan)
A player I wasn’t familiar with, for full disclosure. However, friend of the blog Alex Nunn, who focuses on European prospects, happens to be a massive AIK hockey fan! Here’s what he had to say about Tarnstrom:
Solid 2-way C, smart kid who leads and battles hard, skating could be better and I think they’ve gone a little early on him, but could pan out as a good bottom-6 all-jobs guy if he makes the show. Needs to fill out.
With 11 goals and 23 assists in 41 games in the J20 SuperElit (Swedish Juniors) last season, Tarnstrom’s initial statistical profile looks fairly mediocre. However, an encouraging sign is that he was the focal point of AIK Jrs’ offense. He was the team’s biggest creator and all plays went through him.
In the small amounts of video I’ve seen, it’s evident that Tarnstrom has very good hands and is confident carrying the puck. However, he definitely has a lot of baby deer going on. Elite Prospects lists him as 6’1 and 163 pounds. He’s very lanky right now and the Rangers will be patient as he grows into his body.
The good news on that front is that Tarnstrom was born on August 30th. The cutoff for the 2020 draft is September 15th. He’s one of the youngest players in this draft, so there’s more developmental runway for him than many of his peers.
Alex says he will bounce between the J20 and Allsvenskan (Swedish second tier) depending on AIK’s roster situation. Tarnstrom is a project, but he has projectable tools and will be given plenty of time to figure in Sweden. Prior to the draft, Alex had Tarnstrom on his list of potential steals as a fifth- or sixth-round pick. As a late third round-pick, Alex has him as a slight reach, but nonetheless an intriguing prospect.
103rd Overall - Dylan Garand, Goaltender, Kamloops Blazers (WHL)
I liked this pick a fair amount. I’ve only seen him play a few games. Even if I had seen significantly more, I’m not informed enough to offer extremely nuanced goaltender analysis. I know my limits.
Garand does check basically all the boxes for a New York Rangers goaltending prospect, though. His 6’1 height was cause for concern for a number of teams. That size is right in goaltending coach Benoit Allaire’s wheelhouse, though. See: Henrik Lundqvist, Antti Raanta, and Alexandar Georgiev.
Garand likes to play deep in the crease which, again, fits Allaire’s philosophies. Other teams may want a goalie at his size to change his games and challenge more to cut off angles, but Allaire prefers mobile goalies who compensate for the lack of size by staying on their skates, shortening necessary movements laterally, and buying time to react to shots. He battles in the crease and saw a massive workload with Kamloops last season.
The draft is a crapshoot and goaltending is a crapshoot within the crapshoot. I’m not saying that Garand will work out because he’s shorter and other shorter goalies have worked for the Rangers. Goaltending evaluation is much more complicated than that and I’ll leave it to someone better suited for it. But on a base level, Garand fits the profile. Jeff Malcolm, a former Allaire student in his days with the Hartford Wolf Pack, is now a Rangers’ goaltending consultant based in Western Canada. I would not be surprised if he had major input into this selection.
127th Overall - Evan Vierling, Center, Barrie Colts (OHL)
I want to get more views in on Vierling, but my first impression is that this was a phenomenal pick in the fifth round.
Vierling doesn’t necessarily have any standout traits but is rather a well-rounded offensive contributor. I am not comparing the specific skillsets here and in NO WAY am I insinuating anything about stature as a prospect, but thematically there’s a similarity to Derek Stepan in that his output is greater than the sum of his parts. He’s a playmaker but with enough shooting ability to make him credible in scoring situations. He’s comfortable holding the puck and driving with it through the neutral zone. He’s a committed and intelligent defensive center.
There are a few reasons he fell. First, he had a bit of a turbulent season. Starting the season with the Flint Firebirds, his play was just okay before he left the team and requested a trade. After missing two months, he was traded to Barrie. But once there, he got hot. He was a great complement to Flyers’ first-round pick Tyson Foerster, producing 12 goals and 22 assists in 28 games.
Possibly related to his absence, I’m told that Vierling went through some personal issues this season. I’m not aware of the specifics but was repeatedly assured that this is not a case where he’s been accused of reprehensible behavior or his moral character has been called into question.
“He wasn’t an asshole,” the scout said.
It’s Vierling’s story to tell if and when he ever wants to do so.
It’s rare to get a player with credible top-six upside in the fifth round, but Vierling provides that. Even better, his game projects in a bottom-six role even if he doesn’t reach his peak. Scott Wheeler of the Athletic deemed him a “potential steal.” The scout I spoke to called him a sleeper pick.
“In terms of talent he’s a top-two round guy,” he said.
134th Overall - Brett Berard, USNTDP (USHL)
Another pick where I thought the Rangers got fantastic value. Granted, it was a weak year for the US National Development Program, but Berard (not related to former Ranger Bryan Berard) led the team in points-per-game by a considerable amount (7 goals and 11 assists in 13 games).
Berard is a multi-faceted offensive winger, and he plays with initiative. He gets on the puck and tries to make offense happen. He’ll take defenders on and drive the middle lane. He’s a plus-skater and plays with a tremendous amount of energy.
I’m being intentionally vague about his game because I think he’s worth a full-length scouting report, which I hope to put out next week.
What’s the downside for Berard? He’s small. He’s listed at 5’9, 152 pounds. One could also argue that, while his skating is pretty good, it could be better for his size.
Berard will need a while to develop and muscle up, but he’s going to get that time. He’s committed to Providence College, meaning the Rangers retain his rights for the next four years. He’ll likely spend four, maybe three if he truly excels, in college hockey, working on his game against players who are more physically mature than he.
Is he a project? Yes, but what player drafted outside the top-45 isn’t? Berard is a gamble on upside as a middle-six, maybe bonafide second-line winger. He should have been drafted two, maybe three rounds earlier.
165th Overall - Matt Rempe, Center, Seattle Thunderbirds (WHL)
Rempe is a tremendous story. Please do yourself a favor and read this article on him over at The Athletic.
When Matt was 15 years old, his father died of a sudden heart attack. It was devastating and he used that moment to reflect on his life; a pretty daunting and surreal task for someone in his early teens.
He decided he was going put in all his efforts to improving as a hockey player. Rempe was not drafted into the WHL. He worked his butt off in the AJHL, a Junior B league, and earned a spot with the Seattle Thunderbirds. They intended for him to be an end-of-the-roster player. Instead, he made major improvements to his game and became not only a lineup regular, but one who got legitimate icetime. Rempe registered 12 goals and 19 assists in 41 games for Seattle. Without (yet) going into what that means as an NHL prospect, that’s an incredible achievement given where he was just a year ago. Rempe is a guy you want to root for.
Which is why it sucks that I just don’t think he’s really an NHL prospect.
Let’s start with the good. He’s 6’8 and incredibly strong, yet he still has a lot of room to add more muscle. He has pretty good hands and, as one would imagine, gets the bulk of his offense in the middle of the ice seeking deflections and rebounds. He’s a physical player with the ability to overpower even the bigger players on the ice.
That’s really it, though. His skating is very bad. He doesn’t have much hockey sense. Any defensive contributions are due to his length and effort rather than an ability to read the game. He’s not one to make plays on the puck in space.
Following Rempe’s selection, two different scouts with NHL backgrounds reached out to me on their own volitions to criticize the selection.
“He’s ‘raw’ in the sense that he has so far to go to be a credible player,” said one.
Another said, I scouted him this year and no, I wouldn’t have taken in with a draft pick.”
Rempe’s upside is low as a fourth-line, penalty-killing center, and he’s a long shot to make it to the NHL. But the problem with this pick isn’t even that; good luck finding many sixth-round picks who aren’t shots in the dark.
The issue with Rempe is that he’s so far off even the pro standard. The implication from the scouts I spoke to was that they wouldn’t even bet on Rempe becoming a good ECHL player. He’s just so far off the standard of a legitimate NHL prospect right now.
If I had to give the Rangers benefit of the doubt on this selection, it would be this: Rempe is a late bloomer. He spontaneously grew three inches a year ago. He turned into a capable WHL player out of nowhere. His background is humble and he won’t take any opportunity for granted. His work ethic is through the roof and he’s determined. Who’s to say that he won’t continue on this path as a late bloomer and continue making massive strides in his development over the next two years?
I don’t buy that perspective at all, but I get how the Rangers might have gotten there. My guess is that he won’t ever play a single AHL game, if even that. It would be awesome if Rempe made me eat my words.
197th Overall - Hugo Ollas, Goaltender, Linkoping J20 (SuperElit)
The Rangers finished the draft with an off-the-radar goaltender. I have never seen him play, but the quick summary appears to be this; He’s a massive, 6’8 goaltender whose movements are clunky. Big goaltenders were in style 20 years ago under the premise that they’d cover the top of the net while in the butterfly. How he translates to modern hockey... I’m skeptical. But I generally do like taking goaltenders in the seventh round and the Rangers hold his rights for four years, meaning that they have time to work with him and see his development play out. I lack enough information to make a meaningful determination one way or another how the Rangers did with this pick.